School Choice & Charters Opinion

Maryland Charter Schools and Gubernatorial Elections

By Sara Mead — September 22, 2010 1 min read
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A new campaign ad from Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley—a Democrat in a neck-and-neck race with Republican former Governor Bob Ehrlich—recently caught my attention (lots of Maryland voters live in the D.C. suburbs, and ads targeted to them run in D.C., too).

The ad trumpets O’Malley’s support for education funding and tries to take credit for Maryland’s best-in-the-nation score on EdWeek’s Quality Counts. Nothing surprising there, particularly since O’Malley does have some good things to talk about on education.

What did surprise me were the three issues O’Malley chose to highlight in the ad:

Putting education first and sustaining funding during tough education times Doubling the number of charter schools in Maryland Freezing tuition at the state's public universities 4 years in a row.

The Baltimore Sun says the first claim is mostly true and the third one is “not exactly true” (see here for the very complicated explanation). And I totally understand why O’Malley wants to emphasize those issues here.

The inclusion of charter schools, though, seems a little odd: While the number of charter schools in Maryland has indeed grown substantially in the past four years, it’s not as if O’Malley pushed to strengthen the state’s notoriously weak charter law (which was passed when Ehrlich was governor).

The merits of the claim aside (and the Baltimore Sun doesn’t think much of it), I’m curious why O’Malley and his advisers chose to include it in the ad—particularly when charter schools don’t get so much as a mention on his campaign’s issues website. More importantly, would a re-elected Governor O’Malley support policies to further grow—and provide equitable funding resources to—the number of charter schools in Maryland, particularly in suburban districts like Montgomery County, which has been notoriously hostile to charter applicants?

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The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.